The Thinking Poet

 

Last Words Unuttered

 A meditation for Good Friday 

R.R.Cretchley

 

LAST WORDS UNUTTERED

 This is the day that the Lord has made.

This is the day the world cannot forget:

The triumph day; a one-way trip;

Seated on a donkey, palm festooned, hosanna-praised, voices raised:

 

Blessed is he, David’s son!”

Tumult in the temple; questions in the temple;

Tempers frayed; plans laid;

The traps are set;

The power game is played.

 

The upper room

The humbled self

Foretells his death but not his doom.

Straight words, shattering words,

Agitate eleven simple minds into a partial state of truth

Which we today can only vaguely comprehend;

 

The last walk to the mount

Brief last words

The final act is swiftly running out.

Gethsemane by moonlight;

A tortured, lonely man

Praying in a blood-sweat as the world sleeps on.

 

Shadows of men,

The moment’s shadow falls;

The menace of approaching feet and flame;

A murmur of authority, the closing-in,

The frenzied face of Judas kissing his;

The fracas, the fear, the swords, the flight,

The mock arrest, the sham of trial by night;

Caiphas, Caesar’s-friend, the Fox, the mob;

The taunting, baiting, beating, stripping, crowning,

scourging, marching-to-Golgotha power charade,

In four agonizing syllables

CRU-CI-FIX-ION.

  

High Noon, High sun,

The olive trees have ceased to stir,

The dust upon the three-pronged place of skulls

Drifts slowly down.

 

I am laid in the dust of death,

Low in the dust of death.

 

High noon, high moment,

Now is the time and place,

The drawing together of all times and all space,

Now is the appointed time, the acceptable time,

The time of the spirit walking on the waters,

Abraham’s time, the time of the prophets,

Time for the Son of Man to draw men up –

The fulfilment of time.

 

My dust is torn with pain

And the ache of death.

Be not far from me now;

Danger is near, and there is none to help.

A brutal horde besets me,

Fierce bulls of Bashan hem me in,

Panting for me open-mouthed,

Like lions roaring as they rend.

 

Heavy hammer, square-cut nails,

Arms rippling, glistening with sweat,

Wrists rippling, placed like wood to wood.

Papa Joseph let me hold the hammer

Though my hands could barely grasp;

Papa Joseph held my arms and -------

Papa Father,

 I gasp

with the ache

of death.

 

Father, they set me up

Sun-high, noon-high,

To face the holy town that cast me out.

Papa Father, strength of mine,

Raise me when the time of death is done.

 

 

For a hair’s-breadth-moment

My scourged cheeks cooled as they lifted me,

And I felt the sharp elation of that fiery desert day

When from the temple’s tip (it shimmers in my sight)

I knew that I could hold the world of men within my grasp.

 

But now I hold these nails

And all the world of man must mock.

 

Derided and despised by men;

All who see me mock.

They toss their heads and sneer

“He left it to the Lord!

Let him rescue him;

If God cares, let him rescue him”.

 

The soldiers drink and play at knucklebones.

Burning bones, lift this weary weight

And let the searing air fill out my lungs.

Yet a little while and the world shall watch its king.

They jeer and scream, taunt and mock

Because they could not see

Because the would not hear

Because they were not ready for my love.

“Come down and save yourself!

Come down O King of Kings!”

A fatuous king who writhes and bleeds and dies!

 

How sweet to faint, to drift away from pain,

But then my starving chest must tear me back,

Frantic for its gasp of air again.

They roll dice for my cloak,

The one that mother made me with such care.

“Father forgive them, for they know not what they do”

 

She weeps,

I must not look, for fear that I should too.

I wept for Lazarus, but Lazarus; I could save;

Myself, I cannot, must not, will not save.

Weep mother, wait a little while,

And I shall come and greet you with a smile.

  

My hands and feet are all disfigured

I am laid low in the dust of death.

For a pack of curs encircle me,

A gang of villains surround me;

I can count all my bones,

My foes are gloating over me,

Dividing up my clothes,

Gambling for my gown.

O Father, be not far from me,

O strength of mine, make haste to help.

 

High-noon is past,

High sun is dead.

Darkness stains the sky, black with the dusk of death.

Earth is still,

Creation holds its breath.

 

Before all worlds,

Before the Adam birth,

Father, we rehearsed this death-of-death.

Therefore let there be darkness,

Let no relief come in the night.

I, in your sight Father, steel myself to taste this thing,

Alone.

 

“Aren’t you the Messiah?

Save yourself then, and us!”

 

They fail life;

They fear death,

Father, for this purpose I must die.

 

‘Don’t you even fear God?

We’re getting our deserts,

But this man did no wrong.’

 

‘Jesus, remember me in your glory.’

 

He has not despised the poor man’s plight,

He has not hidden his face from me.

 

‘Today you shall be with me in paradise’.

 

Out of the darkness shall I call him,

Where time stands still,

Where day stretches, and breath is sustained;

Where thoughts have life and leave to wander far,

And all eternity to find their home.

 

My strength is weak as water,

All my limbs give way;

My heart becomes like wax melting in my breast;

My throat is as dry as a potsherd,

My tongue cleaves to my jaws.

 

Suffer, now suffer the Adam death,

Willingly, submissively.

We are one,

You and I together Father.

You have not hidden your face from me,

Neither do I shrink from this last task.

I shrank from sin which is alien,

It has no part in us.

I grasp at death which is alien,

To make it part of us,

That men may fear no more.

If I, by love, die this once and live,

Then men may die and live if they but love.

 

Only a few remain;

Some to hate, and some to love;

Some to lose, and some to gain;

Some with eyes alive with triumph;

Some with eyes dull with tears;

Some to look with lips curled

Relishing the day;

Some to stare in horror,

Quick to look away.

The flint-hard and the haughty

Impatient for the end;

The love-sick ones who sought me,

Believing this the end;

Only these remain.

 

And there is John,

Dear, faithful John,

Comforting my mother as he will when I am gone.

I must speak with them now before I’m done;

They meet my gaze;

They come.

 

‘Mother,’ - - -

 

Thanks dear mother, for mother-love, home-love,

Friendships, kith and kin, life-love,

The smell of earth and air, wine and wood,

Sights and sounds of joy;

The world is very good.

 

‘Mother,’ - - -

 

Before Abraham was, we sought you to bear me, to mother me;

Appointed you to teach me the timeless things;

To point me to my path.

Here am I.

 

‘Mother, behold your son’.

 

‘Son’ - - -

 

I called; you followed.

And how we raised the dust throughout the land!

The world saw wonders;

We filled the hungry with good things

And sent the rich empty, away.

The blind received their sight,

The sick were made whole,

And the Son of Man purveyed good news.

John, they were good times!

 

‘Son’ - - -

 

Have faith, be strong, finish the work.

I will send strength with the comforter.

 

‘Son, behold your mother.’

 

 

My strength is weak as water,

All my limbs give way;

My heart becomes like wax melting in my breast.

 

The priests look anxious;

They fidget for my death.

My presence is unseemly, and the Sabbath comes.

The day burns black,

All is still, nothing stirs,

Light dies, time dies,

They stand, and watch, and wait.

Only the piercing scream of pain remains,

Sounding down the empty vaults of thought.

I dispossess my flesh,

It rages like an animal possessed.

I drag my body up on wrists aflame,

I let it fall to stifle once again;

Day, then night,

Day and night

 

I burn,

I freeze,

I swim,

I float,

I gasp,

I choke,

I faint - - -

- - - - then I revive, Revive!

Relive!  Relive to die!!

 

My God, my God, why desert me?

Why do my cries of anguish bring no help?

I cry by day, but you will not reply,

And no relief comes in the night.

 

Father, I draw near.

This world has had its use of me,

And now I come.

One last long look before I leave,

Then all is done.

 

Loved-ones, and the unloved;

They stand there still.

The city-gate I entered with hosannas yesterday,

The temple, and beyond, the world that hates.

The few who followed and believed, I trust;

The glory you have given me, I share,

That they may be as one,

As we are one.

 

My throat is as dry as a potsherd,

My tongue cleaves to my jaws.

 

‘I thirst!’

 

O God, Father, I thirst!

They proffer me a spear with wine-soaked sponge,

But Father, it is you for which I thirst.

The mountain-weight of world-pain and woe drags me down,

I’m leprous with the filthy sores of sin.

Father, touch my hand, draw me up,

Take me in, take me in!

 

See, I pull myself up - - -

For the very last time - - -

Slowly, O so slowly to the top of the cross - - -

To heavens top!

 

Out of my distress have I called upon the Lord.

I shall not die, but live.

He has not hidden his face from me,

He has answered my cry for help.

 

Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!’

The coming generation shall have news of the Lord

His saving deeds shall be declared to people yet unborn.

My work is done.

 

‘It is finished!’ 

 

His head bows,

The body sags;

Muffled sobs here and there;

The soldiers stir;

Sky breathes pitch;

The earth heaves;

The chief priests nod and leave, satisfied.

 

And had he died as they believed,

This day would be forgotten,

And his words, unheard.

 

R.R.Cretchley  5.7.72.